Men’s Hockey: Home Ice Not to Be, Vermont Swept at Merrimack

Courtesy Vermont Sports Information

NORTH ANDOVER, Ma. – Ludvig Larsson broke a scoreless deadlock four minutes into the third period and Merrimack added an empty-netter for a 2-0 shutout of Vermont on Saturday night at Lawler Arena in the Hockey East regular season finale.

UVM will travel to face 8-seed UConn next weekend as the 9-seed in the Hockey East First Round for a best-of-three series at the XL Center in Hartford. The Catamounts finish the regular season at 12-20-3 (6-13-3 HEA), while the Warriors improve to 11-16-7 (5-10-7 HEA).

After a scoreless first 20 minutes, Vermont began the second period with 2:09 of major power play time but couldn’t cash in. Mario Puskarich had the best chance from the slot on the Catamounts’ second man advantage later in the frame, but Drew Vogler (26 saves) punched out a blocker save and Craig Puffer couldn’t convert the rebound.

Late in the frame, Hampus Gustaffson glided down the left side of the UVM zone but Mike Santaguida (23 saves) made a blocker stop at the far post. Santaguida was making his first start in net in nearly three months coming off injury.

Puffer’s last-second wraparound bid at the right pipe was video reviewed after the period but the puck never crossed the goal line.

Early in the third, Larsson gained the Catamount zone and improved his shooting angle in the bottom of the left wing circle. The rookie lifted a shot that beat Santaguida short side into the upper left corner at 4:06 for his third of the season.

Vermont called its timeout and pulled Santaguida with 90 seconds left on the clock. UVM had several whacks at loose pucks near the edge of the crease but couldn’t beat Vogler. Ben Bahe wristed home an empty-netter from just outside the blueline with 48 seconds remaining to seal the Warriors’ win.

UVM finished with a 26-25 edge in shots on goal, while the teams combined to go 0-for-7 on the power play.

The Hockey East First Round takes place from Friday, March 4 to Sunday, March 6 in Hartford, Connecticut between UVM and UConn with game time set for 7 p.m. on Friday, 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 5 p.m. on Sunday (if necessary).

Pre-game radio coverage begins 30 minutes prior to faceoff each night on WVMT 620-AM,, and the TuneIn app with Alastair Ingram on the call. Live pay-per-view video is also available throughout the series via HockeyEastOnline.TV.

In the other first round matchups, 5-seed Boston University hosts 12-seed UMass Amherst, 6-seed Northeastern faces 11-seed Maine, and 7-seed Merrimack entertains 10-seed New Hampshire. Vermont has advanced to the quarterfinal round in each of the last two seasons.